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The French Trip
Corner cafe in St. Malo
The French Trip
Four of us decided that we'd we'd take a trip to France. The Steward of our club had a huge 4x4 so he decided to drive us on the french trip. The rest of us would fit in easily. With a roof box as well there was ample room. We would cross the Channel on the ferry and drive to wherever we felt, taking in the sightseeing, sampling the wines, soaking up the culture.
We booked on Norfolk Line's ferry from Dover to Dunkirk and on the day we drove the four hours from South Wales to Dover. The weather was good and the ship was stable, so we had a good crossing, just chilling out in the lounge. We were soon driving through customs at Dunkirk and on our way. We tossed up a coin to determine if we turned left or right outside the dockyard and right won, so we headed in the direction of Calais. Passing a town called Loon Plage, Ron, the driver thought we should stay there as we were all loony anyway. Four more loonies wouldn't make a difference, he said. But we carried on to Calais. Arriving at Calais, we drove around until we found a decent looking hotel near a square where we could park the vehicle overnight. The rooms were reasonable so we booked in then gathered together to go out for a meal. We couldn't decide what to eat as there were plenty of restaurants all with differing cuisines, but Jimmy spotted a kebab house and that was the end of the line for him. He loves kebabs. Being the gentlemen that we all are, we went along with him and went in the kebab house and ordered. The meal was disgusting, kebabs of some indeterminate meat and limp and soggy fries, with a tiny lettuce leaf on the side. Jimmy loved it! He thought it was delicious so the three of us agreed, Jimmy was not going to choose a restaurant again.
The next day we decided to head West down the coast of Northern France. The views were tremendous, we stopped at little villages in beautiful countryside and wandered around being tourists. We passed Cap Blanc Nez and Wissant, then turned South towards Buologne Sur Mer. Then on towards Dieppe where we stayed the night.
The following day we visited the war museums along the coast, and marvelled at the tremendous amount of arms and ammunition on display. The huge gun that fired shells across the channel to Dover was a chilling site. We drove along the coast at Omaha beach and Juno beach, where the Normandy landings took place, and tried to imagine the beaches swarming with thousands of British troops who landed there to liberate France.
Ramparts at St. Malo
Then it was onward to St. Malo, a beautiful fortress town which had taken a real pounding from German air attack. The old town is enclosed by ramparts up to 5 metres wide, where cannon were mounted to repel attackers in earlier battles. We walked right around the old town on the ramparts and explored the hundreds of narrow streets which they enclosed.
We decided to stay the night in the new part of St. Malo, and found a hotel. At around 7p.m we were sitting in a bar when the owner told us he was closing for the night, so we tried to find another place that was open. We thought it strange that a bar should close at 7p.m. But it seemed most of the bars closed at that time. Luckily we found a small place that was open and we had a very good night with the locals. The owner told us that he kept it open just for us, but there were a lot of French people in there so we didn't take him seriously.
Streets of St. Malo from the ramparts
Rennes and Abeville
From St. Malo we drove to Rennes, a large city and spent the day and the night there. Next day it was East to Abbeville where we arrived in the late afternoon. We sat in the sun outside a cafe and at 7p.m we decided to eat, but everywhere the shops and bars were closing down for the night. We managed to buy some bread, ham and salad to make a meal, and we sat in our hotel rooms picnicking with bottles of wine.
So it was back to Calais the next morning, back to our first hotel. It was a very pleasant spot. The square had been turned into an open air market and we browsed the stalls and spoke to some English stall holders who came every week from Dover, to sell their goods. We lazed about outside the pavement cafes and in the evening we had a meal. We avoided the kebab house. This time we had a decent meal.
Next day we went back to Dunkirk to catch the ferry and we all agreed that it had been a really great time, relaxing in France.